Are you A/B testing your email subject lines?

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Email marketing still remains one of the best ways to engage existing clients, members, donors, volunteers and whatever other things you are looking for people to do with your website (most commonly referred to as conversions).

You might think with the proliferation of other forms of online communication like Whats App and Slack, that email is a bit of a dinosaur at this point, but trust me it is still one of the easiest and effective ways to communicate with your audience online. In 2020 it is projected that email users worldwide will grow to 4.3 billion users, compared to 3.9 million email users in 2019. That’s more than half the entire world’s population!

So yah email marketing is still a huge opportunity.

If you are already doing email marketing, great! If you are thinking of starting and email marketing program for your organization, that is great too! This post deals only in a single tactic for a much larger strategy though, so if you have questions about email marketing you can always contact the Spake team to walk through everything you need to know to get started.

One of the single best ways you can improve your email marketing campaign performance is by doing A/B tests on your subject lines. This means that instead of sending out an email to your entire list with a single subject line (for example: Huge discount on memberships today), you send out two different email subject lines to a small sample of your list.

So if you have an email list with 5,000 total members, you would send out and email to 200 of your members with the subject line: “Huge discount on memberships today” and send an email to another 200 of your members with a subject line: “You won’t believe what we are offering today.”

You can then let this test run for a 24 or 48 hour period and then send the “winning” email to the 4,600 other members on your list. Note that this is not something you do from time-to-time, but instead should be something you do for every single email you ever send to your email list.

Why is the email subject line so important?

Well, if you can’t get a high rate of people opening up your email, who cares what the text and fancy images are in the body of your email? Your first and most important step is making sure the highest percentage of people open your email in the first place.

Luckily almost every email management service offers A/B subject line testing. Mailchimp and Campaign Monitor (two of our favourites here at Spake) for instance make this very easy.

As for what you put in those subject lines, I can honestly say that when it comes to rules-of-thumb about what makes a good email subject line, the only rule-of-thumb is to run an A/B test. I gave up guessing what words would illicit the highest open rate, many, many years ago!

It is important though that the two subject lines you are testing are quite different. There is no sense, and you will likely not see much difference in open rate performance, in testing two subject lines with only minor variations in the text. So think different. Maybe make one subject line very descriptive and the other vague. Or one that appeals to emotion and the other that appeals to logic. Typically, we will get a shared document going with a few ideas for subject lines and take a bit of time to brainstorm some subject line variations.

If you would like to learn more about A/B subject line testing for your organization or developing a more comprehensive email marketing program overall, feel free to contact the Spake team and we would be happy to help!